Bussola Buranello Cookies are a traditional cookie from the island of Burano in Venice, Italy. Burano is widely recognized for its brightly colored houses and its hand-crafted lace. It doesn’t take long to figure out that they’ve got quite a good thing going with their Bussola cookies also. There seem to be a few different ideas as to what the story behind these cookies might be, so I will share what I found by asking around at the bakery and from my tour guide. First of all, it’s important to know that Burano dates back as a fishing town. The men in the village would be away at sea for long periods of time on fishing boats, merchant ships, or even war ships. The name “Bussola Buranello” literally means “compass of Burano”. The women in the village would mix up a batch of this dough at home, and then bring it to the bakery to be baked. They would then pack up the cookies to send off to sea with their husbands. Bussola cookies are baked in the shapes of a backward ‘S’ or a circle. Some seem to think the circle is to represent the shape of a compass. Since these cookies pack well, and keep fresh for a very long time, they’re great for the long journeys at sea, but they would also be enjoyed back home on Burano. From what I was told, the packaged cookies would often be kept in the drawers of a dresser because they made the clothing smell sweet and pleasant. I’ll tell you what, I don’t think I had better start storing cookies in my sock drawer…It would be way too tempting to sneak a treat at all hours of the day and night.
Bussola Buranello Cookies are not-too-sweet, and have just enough crunch to make them the perfect accompaniment to a glass of tea or coffee (in America), or a glass of wine in Venice. If you happen to find yourself in the Venice area anytime soon, I should warn you that is a no-no to order coffee or cappuccino after lunch, not to mention after dinner. Italians drink their wine early and often. While that may not be my particular type of lifestyle, I can definitely get on board with a good cookie. These are somewhat similar in taste and texture to a shortbread cookie, and they get their yellow-ish hue from the egg yolks in the dough. As with so many of the other pastries and baked goods in Venice, it is very typical for these cookies to be made with a bit of lemon (either juice or zest, or both). Try as I may, I do not enjoy lemon in baked goods. Especially when the pastry is an otherwise delicious treat that has somehow been tainted with lemon zest for no apparent reason. I realize that I am probably alienating some, and offending the very people who invented these cookies, but I just don’t think the addition of lemon is necessary in this case. I have listed it as optional, since they’re delicious with just vanilla.
While wandering around Burano, or other areas around Venice, you’ll see these cookies in the windows of many bakeries. You can buy them individually, or in a large package to take home with you. They’re available full-size (about 3-inches in diameter), or also in miniature versions. If you want to buy the real thing straight from the source, I recommend going to La Pasticceria Carmelina Palmisiano on the island of Burano.
(Scroll to bottom of this page for printable version of recipe.)
Bussola Buranello Cookies
by Kitchen Joy®
Thanks so much for visiting my site! I hope you enjoy these cookies and the story behind them.